District News, February 25 2022

A stargazing spot on Gigha has been named a Dark Sky Discovery Site thanks to its views of the night sky. Photograph of stars and aurora as seen from Gigha in November 2021. Photograph: Keith Wilson. Logo: UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership.
A stargazing spot on Gigha has been named a Dark Sky Discovery Site thanks to its views of the night sky. Photograph of stars and aurora as seen from Gigha in November 2021. Photograph: Keith Wilson. Logo: UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership.

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Gigha:

Gigha location named Dark Sky Discovery Site

A stargazing spot at the north of Gigha has this month been named a Dark Sky Discovery Site by the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership.

The island’s huge expanse of dark sky and lack of light pollution makes it an ideal location for viewing the night sky, full of stars, planets and meteors, arguably one of nature’s most magnificent sights.

Gigha’s Dark Sky Discovery Site is Milky Way class, the highest designation, because it is possible to see our galaxy, the Milky Way, very clearly on a dark cloudless night.

This award makes the Isle of Gigha one of the top 20 most remote zones in Scotland which have been designated as a Dark Sky Discovery Site in the Milky Way class and which hosts community events.

Gigha’s Dark Sky Discovery Site is at the north of the island. Photograph: Keith Wilson.
Gigha’s Dark Sky Discovery Site is at the north of the island. Photograph: Keith Wilson.

The Dark Skies Gigha group has been working towards Dark Sky status for the island for the past three years.

The group has held a number of events on Gigha, although the Covid pandemic curtailed some planned activities.

Last year, the group was awarded a £3,500 grant from Awards for All Scotland.

This was used to create a Dark Sky Theatre at the Dark Sky Discovery Site, which will feature a night sky interpretation board, benches and stargazing pamphlets for islanders and visitors.

The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust Community Fund also awarded the group £840 to purchase nine pairs of binoculars for community use.

When it comes to optimum stargazing conditions, the Isle of Gigha rarely disappoints; located far away from the obscuring haze of light pollution, stargazers are often able to stare up at celestial wonders with just the naked eye.

Islay:

Plans lodged for carbon neutral distillery on Islay

A planning application for a new whisky distillery on Islay has been submitted, with the aspiration that it be carbon neutral in its operation.

The distillery, brainchild of islanders Scott McLellan and Bertram Nesselrode, seeks to provide a long-term and sustainable future for the existing farm operation, whilst creating a distillery of the highest quality that will be a credit to Islay, enhance tourism, generate employment and wider economic opportunities and produce a product that reaches new consumer markets.

The proposed distillery will have a target capacity of 200,000 litres annually, highlighting the smaller, more bespoke approach being taken.

Under the brand ili, a name based on the oldest form of Islay and with a brand identity based on the standing stones which dot the island’s landscape, the plans would represent a substantial investment in the local area, bringing a number of skilled permanent jobs and apprenticeships, in addition to the investment and jobs brought about in the construction phase.

It is also predicated that the distillery would create 23 jobs, including apprenticeships, providing opportunities for young people on Islay and tackling the important issue of rural depopulation affecting many of the Hebridean islands.

Aware that the distillery will benefit from the natural capital and international reputation of Islay, the ili team has been seeking a way to ensure that the local community can also directly benefit from the distillery.

A representation of how the new ili distillery will look once built. Image: Schmidt Massie Studio and Design by Alan Higgs Architects.

A funding model, based on a community benefit fund, linked directly to the future operation of the distillery, is proposed, with a commitment to contribute to a local community fund once the distillery is fully operational.

‘We’re really excited to be bringing forward these proposals to create a bold, new, sustainable distillery on Islay,’ said Mr Nesselrode.

‘The island has a rich heritage of whisky production, and ili would mark a milestone in this heritage – respecting Islay’s legacy while representing something innovative and contemporary.

‘We believe that Gearach Farm, with its rugged landscape, loch, and working traditions would be the ideal place to make this new venture, and importantly we want to ensure that the whole of the island can benefit, through inward investment and job opportunities, along with our community benefit fund.’